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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

Cash and Credit

Art and Trade

People confound literature and article-dealing because
the plant in both cases is similar, but no two things can be
more distinct. Neither the question of money nor that oi
friend or foe can enter into literature proper. Here, right
feeling—or good taste, if this expression be preferred—-is
alone considered. If a bona fide writer thinks a thing wants
saying, he will say it as tersely, clearly and elegantly as lie
can. The question whether it will do him personally good or
harm, or how it will affect this or that friend, never enters
his head, or, if it does, it is instantly ordered out again. The
only personal gratifications allowed him (apart, of course, from
such as are conceded to every one, writer or no) are those
of keeping his good name spotless among those whose opinion
is alone worth having and of maintaining the highest tradi-
tions of a noble calling. If a man lives in fear and trembling
lest he should fail in these respects, if he finds these considera-
tions alone weigh with him, if he never writes without think-
ing how he shall best serve good causes and damage bad
ones, then he is a genuine man of letters. If in addition to
this he succeeds in making his manner attractive, he will
become a classic. He knows this. He knows, although the
Greeks in their mythology forgot to say so, that Conceit was
saved to mankind as well as Hope when Pandora clapped
the lid on to her box.

With the article-dealer, on the other hand, money is, and
ought to be, the first consideration. Literature is an art;
article-writing, when a man is paid for it, is a trade and none
the worse for that; but pot-boilers are one thing and genuine
pictures are another. People have indeed been paid for
some of the most genuine pictures ever painted, and so with
music, and so with literature itself—hard-and-fast lines ever
cut the fingers of those who draw them—but, as a general
rule, most lasting art has been poorly paid, so far as money
goes, till the artist was near the end of his time, and, whether
money passed or no, we may be sure that it was not thought
of. Such work is done as a bird sings—for the love of the
thing; it is persevered in as long as body and soul can be
kept together, whether there be pay or no, and perhaps better
if there be no pay.